Up to 100 still feared trapped in Indonesia mine

Indonesian search and rescue teams carry a survivor of a mine collapse in Bolaang Mongondow, North Sulawesi. (AFP)
Updated 04 March 2019
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Up to 100 still feared trapped in Indonesia mine

  • Search teams have been hampered by steep terrain, unstable soil and dangerously narrow mining shafts
  • Because of the precarious conditions, rescue workers initially had to dig by hand to try to reach any survivors

JAKARTA: Indonesian authorities warned Monday that up to 100 people could still be trapped and feared dead inside a collapsed illegal gold mine despite a painstaking rescue effort that has so far plucked 19 people alive from the rubble, but also seen nine deaths.
Search teams at the unlicensed mine on Sulawesi island have been hampered by steep terrain, unstable soil and dangerously narrow mining shafts since a landslide caused the accident last Tuesday.
While authorities said the search and rescue effort would continue for another week, they made no mention of continuing efforts to get food and water to any possible survivors.
National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the number of miners inside the shafts at the time of the accident was still not known as survivors had given varying tallies.
“Some say 30 people, 50, 60 people — even 100 people, because at the time there were many in the main pit (and) ... an unknown number in the smaller ones,” he said in a statement.
Because of the precarious conditions, rescue workers initially had to dig by hand to try to reach any survivors, but relatives of those trapped last week gave permission for heavy-duty machinery to be deployed.
Although mechanized diggers cleared debris from the entrance of one hole on Sunday, they found no more survivors.
The accident happened in the Bolaang Mongondow region of North Sulawesi, where five miners were killed in December after a similar illegal gold mine accident.
Mineral-rich Indonesia has scores of unlicensed mines — many with complete disregard for even the most basic safety procedures.
In 2016, 11 miners died after a mudslide engulfed an illegal gold mine in Sumatra’s Jambi province.
In 2015, 12 people died when a mineshaft collapsed on Java island, and 11 miners died on Sumatra island when a mudslide engulfed a mine in Jambi province.


Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

Updated 21 May 2019
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Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

  • The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims

DHAKA: As the clock strikes 6 p.m., Shudhhanondo Mohathero hurries to the kitchen to alert his army of 15 monks that they have less than 40 minutes until iftar. 

Soon, people will begin queuing outside the Dharmarajika Bouddha Bihar, a Buddhist monastery in Dhaka, where Mohathero hands out free food packs to fasting Muslims who are too poor to buy a meal to end their fast.

It is a tradition that 89-year-old Mohathero started 10 years ago when he assumed responsibility for the temple’s upkeep.

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return,” Mohathero told Arab News.

Built in 1951, the monastery, which is located in Basabo in the eastern part of Dhaka, has been involved in various social welfare activities. Since the start of Ramadan this year, almost 200 food packs have been doled out every day, with plans to double the number by the end of the month. The 15 monks who live in the monastery prepare the food boxes for iftar.

At a cost of around 80 cents, which is funded by the temple, each box contains traditional Bangladeshi iftar items such as puffed rice, boiled and seasoned chickpeas, jilapi (a deep-fried sweet pastry), beguni (deep-fried eggplant) and dal bora (a fried item with smashed lentils and dates).

“In previous years, our junior monks used to prepare iftar at the monastery. This year, however, we are starting to outsource the items due to the sheer volume,” Mohathero said. 

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return.”

Shudhhanondo Mohathero, Chief monk of Dhaka’s Buddhist Monastery

The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims.

“I have been receiving iftar from the monastery for three years. Since my husband works as a daily-wage laborer, this iftar has made our lives very comfortable,” Asma Khatun, a local resident, said.

Another devotee, Sharif Hossain, said that iftar from the monastery “is like a divine blessing.”

“After losing all my properties in a river erosion, I moved to Dhaka just a few months ago and started living in a slum. I can finally feed my family with the iftar provided by the monks,” he said. 

Talking about his experience being part of a project that builds communal harmony, Prantar Borua, an apprentice monk at the temple, said: “We feel proud and happy to be doing such an extraordinary thing. It’s a small contribution to the community, but it’s the best we can do at this moment.”

The monastery’s generosity has won praise from the Bangladesh authorities, too.

“It’s a nice initiative from the Buddhist community, especially at a time when the world is experiencing many hate crimes and interreligious conflicts. It upholds the spirit of religious harmony,” Abdul Hamid Jomaddar, joint secretary of the Religious Affairs Ministry, said.

“Our government believes in the coexistence of different religions, which is the beauty of this secular land,” he added.